Behind the scenes: the making of a 2.5d shape display

• alexa

Compiled some old videos and photos of our time prototyping a 2.5D shape display sometime between 2016 and 2018. One display module has almost 300 motors; though originally we envisioned that would be somewhere near 1000 (!!). We fabricated not just one but 4 of these displays. So we were close to 1000, but we never quite put together more than two. Maybe a challenge for another PhD :).

It was quite an engineering feat at each step of the way, from soldering the PCBs (each with over 800 tiny resistors) to getting that many mechanical moving parts all consistently assembled and all working and moving together. Some of the most fun parts were, starting with high hopes in the early days, imagining what it would be and what could be possible, and then finally being able to close the loop and actually test and protype concepts and ideas. But more so, the truly rewarding parts have been interacting with the several dozens of people that have been able to enjoy using the shape display. Over the years the shape display has travelled quite a bit to at least 3 conferences and was also an exhibit for a night at the Exploratorium in SF.

This year, I had high hopes of even having multiple displays being used through a number of summer camp workshops, but then of course there was the pandemic…

Video description: 1) a prototype built with legos and 6 pins moving with a captionn that reads 'how it started'; 2) images of 3D models showing a vision of a modular display; 3) prototypes with 3-6 pins moving; 4) prototypes with a full row of 24 pins moving; 5) a computer simulation of a shape display rendering a sinusoidal surface; 6) a person showing how a prototype with one row can mirror the simulation; 7) protoype of a full hand-size display working with a moving sphere; 8) videos of the display in use for VR, learning and design; 9) videos of several users touching and moving the display; 10) side view of a shape display rendering moving spheres and a caption that reads 'how it's going'.